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Kingston, NY, Friday, Nov. 16, 2007

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On The Playground
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

A Decade of Mars Retrograde
I'M REMEMBERING a good many things lately; truths I'd "misplaced" over the years. Finding them has seemed like serendipity, but I think it's more likely that I'm calling them back in, now -- emotions, reflections, life essentials. They come to me as insights, but they're really nothing new -- I had them firmly in consciousness as a child. I replaced them with the roles, the masks, of adulthood and responsibility, as do we all -- and lost some of what was real. We have, you know.

Spending time with my family has given me the mirror to reflect some of those forgotten treasures. For instance, "dial it down" is the direction many a parent gives an enthusiastic, boisterous, leaping, and irrepressibly joyful child. The word that comes to mind as I watch that escalation of creative energy in my five-year-old granddaughter, Gracie, is glee -- a word that adults use mostly to describe Schadenfreude, as in, "I took glee in his demise." It's a word to describe emotion a bit suspect, a tad over the top.

But in a child's energy, glee is something to behold, something primal and remarkable that flares higher than fireworks on the Fourth of July -- a celebration of life, of discovered passions and interests, of sheer potentiality most often accompanied by a testing of the endurance of lungs and limbs...and parents' patience, to be sure. I quite understand the need to lower the decibels and contain the exuberance but now, as I watch from the seasoned position of grandmother, not parent, I can feel the energetic deflation that comes with that command, the disappointment -- feet back on earth, wings down, deep sigh. Woe unto the adult who forgets his/her own glee.

My grandson, Wyatt, is wise at eight, stunningly bright and good-humored; he's also prone to silence, as are so many men-children. A question about his day will get you one syllable and he must be poked with a stick to elaborate. He is full of facts and bits of information that he considers important, reflecting a mind bent on absorbing lists of data that fascinate him, that define the world he inhabits. Looking up at the stars, the other evening, he told me how many planets were in our galaxy. (He can also pronounce the names of ordnance used by the Nazis in World War II in the original German and describe their function.) Yet last night at the dinner table, out of the blue, he quoted a key piece of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech; later I found he'd sent me an email link to the whole of it for my archives, and titled it "Fabulous." For Wyatt, the world is full of wonders, waiting to be considered, cataloged...and quoted. Woe unto the adult who considers the world's wonders fanciful -- who forgets the majik of wonder, itself.

I'm pleased not to be a parent in this day and age, although I don't think the job has changed that much. I'm just happy to be observing, and remembering, instead of being responsible for "making a person." Surely the world is not so safe as it was when I was parenting, it appears more confused and less stable, but children still have all the basic wiring for giving and receiving, learning and teaching, experiencing and sharing, playing. That last is BIG. Playing is the process of discovery that puts the rest into perspective...and it never ends, no matter how many years you rack up. You, for instance, are still a child, perhaps even a wise one. You know that, don't you?

As is the cycle of maturing, one of the things my grandkids are learning is how to take on societal roles. We think of this as personality development -- I think it's more a matter of "play pretend." Wyatt is a leader, he can back it up with his collection of facts -- so he has selected the role of "dependable." He's a "can do" guy, like his dad. Grace is a lyrical one, princess one day, tomboy the next -- she has learned how to be a chameleon, placing herself as valuable wherever she is. My own kids have learned to be thoughtful parents, caregivers, providers, authorities; those are the roles they have today, yet my own experience tells me they will lay those down and choose again at some point. The natural progressions of life give us turning points with new games to discover, new roles in which to immerse ourselves, a fluid circle of experience.

Real maturity, of course, has to do with what we learn on the playground; learning from the experience of our play is the real game. Becoming a mature adult comes naturally as we allow life to present its gifts and challenges, as we find the natural high of fostering opportunity for ourselves and others, respecting community and celebrating joy -- those who force life into some kind of mold, insist on absolutes, miss the point...and all the fun.

Our president, for instance, appears more childish than childlike. Someone who insists on calling himself The Decider and forcing his decisions down our throats while naming two-thirds of us unpatriotic for not supporting his "vision" has all the trappings of the Stern Parent role (and in this case, with little of its gravitas.) He has called up our childish fears, our tribal tendencies, our subconscious dependencies on patriarchal symbolism and bashed us over the head with them. That's his game...why do we play it?  Don't we have any playground supervision? Hasn't somebody got a whistle to blow?

Perhaps we've forgotten what "adult" actually looks like; the problem with "roles" is you lock into them and forget HOW to play. Shakespeare told us that we are merely players, here -- yet now we've allowed ourselves to become lethargic and stressed, overwhelmed and overmedicated, subject to daily messages of hopelessness and chaos that dampens our inherent energy. But it's all subjective to the playground, isn't it? Aren't there other games available? Other kids to play with? New things to discover that easily replace the old? Are we locked in to this single scenario? Or can we play our way out of it?

I read an interesting article the other day, about our relationship to God/dess. It suggested that it's time for us to grow up and stop looking to that Mystical Thing out there to "take care of us." It asked if we were ready to become adult in our roles as regards the Divine. That's a fine question to ask ourselves, as we look back on these years of corporate corruption, media and PR blitz and Fundamentalist religion imposing itself on our national politics. Perhaps we could plumb the depths of our own divine imprint if we weren't waiting for something outside of ourselves to present "direction." Perhaps if we saw ourselves as powerful adults instead of citizen-children, we would stop depending so much on government to define what we can and cannot do. Maybe we would stop "hoping" and get on with the "doing." We could take care of each other, instead of waiting for "them" to do it. We could learn to share and cooperate, play nicely with one another. You know -- all those things we learned in kindergarten?

I'm remembering. I'm remembering that life is simpler than we make it, that joy is like a hummingbird darting into sight with a blur of iridescent colors, it's like hearing gentle snatches of Beethoven through the ear-splitting cacophony of rock 'n' roll that leads us through our day. I'm recalling that happiness is a decision that puts me in touch with possibilities -- that glee can pull me up into rarefied air if I just lean into it, that wonder can fold time and leave me speechless and awed if I'll allow it in. I'm looking at our world situation and thinking that if we're going to dial anything down, we need to let it be unsubstantiated fears, dark judgments, cynicism and lethargy.

I'm remembering that life renews itself daily; I see it in the eyes of my grandkids, I mark it in the blessing of Chelsea's beautiful new son, Eli. I'm reminded  that each moment is as bright and shiny as a newly minted penny, waiting for me to decide what to do with it. I affirm that what I bring to life is more important than what it imposes on me, and I'm not going to forget that glee and wonder are essential building blocks to the kind of tomorrow we all dream of -- where we mend one another instead of wound, where we laugh instead of cry, where we create in beauty and tenderness and play well together, Divine Children of Light.

Do you remember when life was fun? When each day was new and bright and full to brimming with possibility? Let's do that, 'kay? Let's play THAT game!

CREDITS: Associate Editor: Priya Kale. Webmaster: Anatoly Ryzhenko. Proofreader and Fact Checker: Sara Churchville. Horoscope Editor: Jessica Keet. Associate Photo Editor: Sharon Bellenger. Business Manager: Chelsea Bottinelli. Published by Planet Waves, Inc., a Washington State corporation, all rights reserved.
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